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Spain celebrates the San Juan’s night one year more. The night of June 23 is the shortest night of the year which means that summer has just arrived. As mythology says that is a night in which weird things happens, and some of the pagan gods make themselves visible. It’s a magical night full of traditions, legends and rituals with two staring: the water and the fire.
Despite the fact that the summer solstice at the Northern hemisphere is on June 21, the night of the 23 is celebrated as the shortest. In Spain the dawn of the 23 means the beginning of the different parties and festivals that will take place in several Spanish cities during the summer.
In Spain each city celebrates the San Juan’s night based on its own traditions. However, all of them have one thing in common: the fire.
The main ritual consists of lighting up a bonfire in order to make the sun ‘stronger’. This festival is not only about tribute to the sun, but also to purify the human being’s sins. Water and fire are the elements that play the most important role this night; water purifies and fire burns the past to start a new period.
Origin: Traditions and Legends
The origin of the San Juan’s night festival is pagan. One of its precedents is the Beltaine Celtic celebration. The name means ‘beautiful fire’ and it was an annual festival in honor of Belenos god. During this celebration people lit up several bonfires in order to jump over them. The cattle also had to go through the fires to purify it and defend it against some illnesses.
That festivity was Christianized in honor of San Juan Bautista to celebrate his birth. According to the Bible, Zacary, San Juan’s father, didn’t believe that his wife was pregnant and when she gave birth, he lit up some bonfires to warn the rest that his son was born.
Since then, there exist a lot of traditions that Spaniards usually do when this night arrives -
Regarding to Spain, one of the most popular cities in which this festival takes place is Alicante. In fact it has been declared as an international cultural heritage for the tourism. The characteristic that makes this festival more attractive than the others is the artistic bonfires, also known as ‘Ninnots’. Ninnots are artistic monuments made of wood, cork, cardboard and paint that represent satirical situations. They are made of this material with the objective of burning them after special fireworks at the Benacantil hill.